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Chesapeake Bay's Blue Crab Population Increase Is Good News, Officials Say

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Every winter, Maryland and Virginia dredge the Chesapeake Bay's bottom, looking for crabs down in the mud to take a survey of the overall population.

"We were pleasantly surprised by the numbers this year. So it's always good to see some good news," said Jenine McClain with Department of Natural Resources' Blue Crab Project.

As it turns out, very good news. An estimated total of 594 million blue crabs, a 60 percent increase over last year. This includes 190 million females, a 29 percent jump, as well as 324 million juveniles.

This is double 2018's numbers.

"Especially the juvenile numbers, that have a strong recruitment year is really good news," McClain said.

So why the Bay's bounty this year? Start with a mild winter, which did not freeze the water above and the crabs below.

Then there are the past three years of increased underwater grasses, 100,000 acres in 2018.

"Seagrasses are one of the most important of what we call nursery habitats for juvenile crabs. They give them a place they are protected from predators and they can feed there and grow up quickly," said Allison Colden with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Which means adult crabs to harvest now and down the road. The increase of crabs could ultimately mean a decrease in harvest regulations.

"That's possible," Colden said. "I know that each year Maryland and Virginia look at their regulations and see if any adjustments need to be made,"

"Things like Bushell limits and the length of the season," McClain added. "Other controls to keep the fishing at a sustainable level,"

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